After participating in ISTE13 this past week, I've had an opportunity to reflect on several lessons learned. These specific lessons are not academic in nature, that post will come a little later. Rather, I've formatted this post as a "Notes to self" type of entry, in order to make better decisions next year. In addition, one of my upcoming posts will be about what you should be prepared for when attending ISTE14 in Atlanta next summer.
1. Eat more.
With all the walking and talking that one is bound to do while at an ISTE Conference, I quickly discovered the necessity of eating more than just once or twice a day. The heat that Texas has to offer is no joke, and while I didn't personally, nor did I hear of anyone fainting, I must say that it is still important to be mindful of one's dietary intake. And, just for the record, an Iced Chai from Starbucks does not equal a meal, or anything close to it.
2. Eat out.
Yes, we all love to splurge for room service every now and then, but it's really difficult to make F2F connections with people when you're cooped up in a hotel room for every meal. The few times when I ate at the hotel's restaurant, I remember starting impromptu conversations with other ISTE participants who were also enjoying a nice quiet meal. If you ever want to know where to eat in a foreign city, just get onto Foursquare, and you'll be able to check out the most happening locations within an area.
3. Buy the expensive, big bottles of Fiji water.
Let me just start by saying that I'm not a water snob, I just know what's good. When you're staying in a hotel that charges $2 for each little bottle of water you consume, you'd be better off walking over to the nearest drugstore and getting a few large bottles of Fiji. It's good water, and you get a lot more, for a little less $.
4. Take naps.Many ISTE participants on Twitter have already talked about soaking up information like a sponge. This article talks all about the benefits of taking a nap, and no, it's not just beneficial for "old people". Besides, while taking a nap, you can also give your phone a chance to charge.
5. Make sure phone is fully charged while out.
Nowadays, no one likes to be "stranded" without their technology device(s). What's worse is having a phone, a full signal, and a dead battery. If you're the type of person that carries a charger or a spare battery around, then great! If you're not, then remember to recharge your phone before it dies, as my phone did twice. Luckily, I was hotel-bound each time.
6. Get a hotel with FREE WIFI.Maybe I've been spoiled by always staying in hotels that had free WIFI at previous conferences and events. Either way, I couldn't bring myself to pay $10 a day for access when I could get unlimited access at Starbucks or the Convention Center for free.
7. Bring the bare minimum number of technology devices.
Just because ISTE13 was a Technology-based Educational Conference, it doesn't mean that one should bring half a dozen devices. Last year, my device count was rather light, with only my SmartPhone, an iPad, and my MacBook. This year was a bit more intense. I ended up packing my MacBook, iPhone, and both my personal and work iPads. Not to mention the free Surface tablet that 10,000 of us received for free at the event. As if the weight of these devices was not enough, now I have to go through and collate all of the QR codes that I scanned on my iPhone and iPads. Next year, I'll pack way smarter, limiting the devices to a ChromeBook, that I'll get this Christmas, and ONE iPad. Should definitely save a lot of time when being required to shut down devices prior to the flight departure.
8. If you know you're receiving a free device, follow the Twitter advice and bring a case.
It would have been really nice to carry around the new Windows Surface tablet in a case or bag, rather than the clunky box that it came in. But I suppose that this uncomfortable clunkiness was bound to be the result of not listening to the nice reminder tweets about bringing a case for the device. Oh well, another lesson learned.
9. Leave enough room in your suitcase for free schwag.
When you attend a Conference of this size, you know there are going to be a lot of vendors, so be prepared. A recent tweet I read, said that there was one vendor for every three participants. That's a lot of information to take in, and a lot of freebies to receive. Wishing I would have planned accordingly. Thankfully, when I got home late Wednesday evening, my next-door neighbor intercepted me, and offered to carry my overstuffed suitcase up three flights of stairs:)
10. Pack less.
This kinda goes in line with #9. However, the main reason for packing less is that you're not going to a deserted island, thus anything outside of the 4 or 5 changes of clothes can likely be purchased at a local retail location.
11. Take comfortable shoes.
Unless you find some type of sick enjoyment out of getting blisters, pack comfortable shoes. In my situation, a roundtrip from the hotel to the Convention Center and back equaled a little over a mile. Multiply that by 3, and tack on another mile or two of walking around the Convention Center, and you're easily looking at about 5 miles worth of walking each day. Now, I realize that there were shuttle buses to and from the hotels, but there's something healthy to be said about choosing walking over riding or driving. Yes, I was that individual wearing Skechers with a maxi dress. In a Conference that is that spread out, comfort takes precedence over style. Next year, I'll definitely be breaking in a few pairs of shoes before taking them down to HotLanta.
12. Remember username and password to the QR code source for personal business card.
Last year, just in time for ISTE12, I made a bunch of business cards that had a QR code which would link to my resume. Personally, I thought it was pretty sweet. But, when you spend the vast majority of the Conference in obscurity, too timid to converse with anyone, the business cards become relatively useless. Fast forward one year later. Too busy with work to even remember the password, let alone the email address I used to make the QR code, I was a little stuck. Thankfully, the QR code was linked to a GoogleDoc I had created, so all I had to do was change the text to replace my resume with my Twitter handle.
13. Find a better way to make F2F introductions with Twitter followers.
Maybe it's just me, but every time I heard or said the word "following" or "follower", my mind immediately went to Fox's creepy TV show, "The Following". Now, there has got to be a better way to make face to face introductions with someone that you're "following" on Twitter than to say, "Hey, I think I'm one of your followers". Creepy, right?? So, while at the EdTech Karaoke party, I recognized one of the people I followed right away, and said "Krissy?". Thankfully, she wasn't too weirded out by the whole introduction, though it was still a little awkward on my part. I just had this crazy thought where next year, I'll wear some type of oversized sticker that reads "If you think you follow me, I'm @TechTeacherT". Great icebreaker, right?
14. Make new friends.
In addition to finding your Twitter peeps at a Conference this size, it's also important to make new friends. You know, the ones that you've never communicated with or been connected to. For example, when the plane touched down in San Antonio on Sunday evening, I joined a taxi line that was at least one hundred people deep. While in the incredibly long line, another ISTE participant joined the wait. As we inched our way up to the front of the line, he asked if I'd mind splitting a cab. After seeing cab after cab pass by with only one person in it, I said , "Sure, why not". So, we ended up splitting a cab ride into the city, which in turn, reduced some of the inevitable costs. Plus, meeting this one stranger, and crossing paths with him on a few additional occasions over the course of the week, made it that much easier to realize just how seamlessly we were all connected to one another.
15. Check in to flight 24 hours in advance, not one hour ahead of time.This problem was one of the most important travel takeaways that I took from this Conference. Southwest is a great airline, really it is. But, I had neglected to read up on the airline prior to checking in, and did not realize until I got to the airport that there were no assigned seats, and that your boarding order was based on when you checked in for your flight. Thus, when you check in an hour or two before your departure time, you can't blame anyone for any inconvenience you may experience, like not being able to access your devices because there's not enough room in the overhead for your bag. I learned my lesson. On the homebound flight, I checked in 24 hours ahead of time, and thankfully was able to get and keep a seat and my bags, as the flight had been overbooked.
Be sure to check out my next post on preparing for ISTE14 in Atlanta, on Monday. Those of you coming from far, far away, will surely find it useful.